Enjoying over 300 days of sunshine a year, the most glamorous destination on the Mediterranean looks like nowhere else on the French Riviera. The Principality of Monaco is a tiny state no bigger than New York’s Central Park. It is made up of a cluster of high-rise towers built on the side of the Maritime Alps. The celebrated micro-state evokes famous landmarks and personalities: the changing of the guard at the Prince’s Palace, where resides the Grimaldi dynasty, a magnificent exotic garden, and the Casino of Monte-Carlo where you may catch sight of British spy James Bond.
Watch our short video on Monaco: Facts & Figures!
Plan your trip to the Principality of Monaco
- 🏨 Find the best accommodations in Monaco on Booking.com
- 🙋♀️ Get the PASS CÔTE D’AZUR and take your pick from more than 100 unique experiences on the French Riviera!
- 🏛 Visit the Oceanographic Museum on the Rock of Monaco
- 🎯 Take a guided hidden gem tour of Monaco
- 🏎 Enjoy an exhilarating Lamborghini Driving Experience from Monaco
- 🛥 Ride the Ferry from Nice to Monaco and back with this round-trip ferry transfer
- 🥗 Experience the culture and food of Old Nice on a 4-hour sightseeing and tasting tour
- 📚 Read the DK Eyewitness Provence and the Côte d’Azur Travel Guide
- 🤩 Get familiar with the French Riviera
- 🗺 Download the free City Map of Monaco
Where is the Principality of Monaco?
Monaco is a sovereign micro-state situated on the French Riviera between Nice and Menton.
Monaco shares a border with France of 5.47 km (3.40 mi) and has 3.8 km (2,3mi) of coastline.
This pocket-size Principality is the world’s second-smallest state after the Vatican, with an area of 2.02 km2 (0.81 sq mi). Therefore, the micro-state is smaller than Central Park in New York City!
The process of creating new land from the sea has allowed the Principality to expand its surface by 40 hectares.
Two peaks dominate Monaco: Mount Agel (1148m) and, most notably, the Tête de Chien (literally the dog’s head), which rises to 550 metres above sea level. The silhouette of the Tête de Chien is an integral part of the Monegasque landscape and is accessible from the village of La Turbie.
From the summit, the panoramic view of the Principality is breathtaking.
The people of Monaco
A national of Monaco is called a Monegasque. Another name for a resident of Monaco who does not have citizenship is sometimes found on the internet: a Monacoian.
The official name in French of the micro-state is “Principauté de Monaco”.
The origins of the name
The name Monaco is said to derive from the toponym Mónoikos (Μόνοικος). The latter is mentioned in the Periegesis of Hecataeus of Miletus, a Greek historian and geographer of the 2nd century BC: Μόνοικος, πόλις Λιγυστική, Mónoikos, pólis Ligustikḗ (“Monaco, a Ligurian city”). The name Monœci is attested in the 1st century AD.
Throughout Ancient Times, the port of Monaco was associated with the Greek demi-god Hercules. The Romans also called the port Portus Herculis Monœci. Curiously, the French Revolution momentarily used the name Fort Hercule to designate Monaco.
The population of Monaco
As of 31 December 2021, Monaco had 39,150 inhabitants. It is the most densely populated country in the world.
The population was only 1,200 in 1867 and 22,300 in 1961.
However, the population of Monegasque nationality is 9,611 in 2021, which is 21.4% of the total population of the Principality.
22% of the population live in the Monte Carlo district and only 3% on the Rock (old town).
By comparison, the number of people in Liechtenstein is 38,100, and that of San Marino is 34,000.
The most represented nationalities in Monaco are:
- French (23.7%)
- Monegasques (21.4%)
- Italian (20.8%)
- British (7.1%)
- Swiss (3%)
- Belgians (2.7%)
- Germans (2.3%)
Curiously, there are more inhabitants of French nationality in Monaco than Monegasque nationals!
The districts of the Principality of Monaco
The four traditional districts of Monaco are
- Monaco-Ville: this is the old town, built on the Rock
- La Condamine: around the Hercules port
- Monte-Carlo : a residential and hotel area famous for its glittering casino
- Fontvieille: a district reclaimed from the sea in 1971
The Rock of Monaco
The principality’s oldest part is Le Rocher. It consists of a rocky promontory between the port of Monaco and the Fontvieille district. The old town is the only part of the microstate to have been spared by developers.
Find out more about what to visit on the Rock of Monaco and the Prince’s Palace.
The district of La Condamine is situated between the rocky promontory of Monaco and the district of Monte-Carlo. The Principality’s second-oldest district is also a shopping area bordered by the Port of Monaco. This is where many expensive yachts – including the one belonging to the Prince of Monaco – are berthed.
La Condamine is where the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix starts and finishes.
Monte-Carlo (sometimes called Monte-Carle in French) is arguably the Principality’s most famous district. This is due mainly to the presence of the casino.
Most of Monaco’s luxurious shops are found along Boulevard des Moulins selling jewels, clothes, designer luggage and luxury cars.
Find out more about the district of Monte-Carlo.
It is a district almost entirely reclaimed from the sea (between 1966 and 1973), based on a project by the architect Manfredi Nicoletti.
This is also the location of one of the principality’s three marinas, the Port of Fontvieille.
There is a church, offices, luxury homes, and the Louis-II stadium, home of the AS Monaco football team.
The ten districts of Monaco
Since 1966, Monaco has been divided into ten smaller districts:
- La Condamine
- Jardin exotique
- Monaco-Ville (the old town covers 9.7% of the total area of the principality)
- Les Moneghetti
- Ravin de Sainte-Dévote
- La Rousse
- Le Portier (district under construction on the sea)
What to see in Monaco?
Monaco’s geographical location and Mediterranean climate have made it a popular tourist destination. Tourism has always been mainly oriented towards the luxury clientele, attracted by the numerous sporting and cultural events and the casinos (including the Monte Carlo casino).
As you can guess, staying in Monaco will undoubtedly lighten your wallet! But it is still possible to plan to visit Monaco on a budget… and enjoy discovering the Principality.
But you don’t have to be rich to visit Monaco! Its geopolitical particularity and its impressive monuments nestled on the blue waters of the Mediterranean are worth a visit.
Here are five must-see sites in the Principality of Monaco:
The Palace of Monaco (Palais princier) has been the official residence of the Prince of Monaco since 1297. It stands on top of the Monaco Rock, the oldest part of the Principality of Monaco, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea by sixty metres.
Edified in 1191, initially as a fortress for the Republic of Genoa, the building has been bombarded and sieged by numerous foreign forces throughout its history. Since the end of the 13th century, it has been the home of the Grimaldi family, who conquered the place in 1297.
The splendour of the Palace is open to visitors who can discover:
- the main courtyard and its 17th-century staircase.
- the 17th century “Grands Appartements”, including the Hercules Gallery, the Italian Gallery, the Louis XV Salon, the Mazarin Salon, the Throne Room, the Palatine Chapel and the York Room.
Find out more about the Prince’s Palace of Monaco.
Not to be missed: the changing of the guard. This very popular event takes place every day at 11.55 am in the Palace Square.
Cathedral of Notre Dame-Immaculée
The Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate of Monaco is a Romanesque-Byzantine church commissioned under the principate of Charles III.
The foundation stone of the present cathedral was laid on 6 January 1875 on the site of the former church of Saint-Nicolas (1252). The completion of the work occurred on 12 November 1903. Its consecration took place in 1911.
The cathedral’s materials are white stone from the nearby village of La Turbie, red and blue porphyry from the Esterel, green and granite from the Vosges, the granite of the choir from Biella and marble from Carrara.
Today, it is the main church of the Monegasque archdiocese.
Oceanographic Museum of Monaco
The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco is a neo-baroque oceanographic museum-aquarium built into the cliffside on the Rock of Monaco. Prince Albert I of Monaco founded the museum in 1889, facing the Mediterranean Sea. The building was inaugurated in 1910. Its aquariums house over 6000 marine specimens.
The museum and its Oceanographic Institute were directed by Captain Cousteau from 1957 to 1988.
👉 Get your entry ticket to the Oceanographic Museum here…
The Casino de Monte-Carlo is a prestigious Belle Époque casino in the Monte-Carlo district of Monaco.
Charles Garnier (who also built the adjoining Monte Carlo Opera House) designed the current building in 1879.
It is surrounded by gardens and has a terrace from which the view extends over the Mediterranean and from Monaco to the cape of Bordighera in Italy.
The Exotic Garden and the Observation Cave
The exotic garden is possibly the most beautiful botanical garden on the Riviera. It opened in 1933 in the district of Les Révoires.
The garden contains thousands of the rarest and most amazing succulent plants and cacti planted on rocky and steep craggy outcrops overlooking the Prince’s Palace, the old town and the Mediterranean Sea.
The plants come from various dry zones: the South-West of the United States, Mexico, Central and South America, South Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula.
On the same site, some 60 metres below ground, a prehistoric cave reveals its spectacular stalagmites and stalactites formed a thousand years ago.
What to do in Monaco?
Want to know what you can do in and around Monaco? Click on the image below for a list of activities:
From Private Guided Walking Tour to Lamborghini Driving Experience and French Riviera Cruises, the Principality dazzles with glamorous activities you won’t forget. Here’s a little list of what’s on offer!
Where to stay in Monaco?
Did you know? There are 12 hotels in the Principality, four ***** and four ****. Unsurprisingly, accommodation in the Principality is very expensive. Unless you absolutely want to stay within the Principality, there is a cheaper alternative. For this, you should look at the Beausoleil district in France, a few minutes walk from the Monaco train station. Prices are much more affordable than in Monaco.
Click here to choose your accommodation in Monaco and its surroundings, or browse the map below:
Surroundings of the Principality of Monaco
Beautiful places on the French Riviera surround Monaco within a radius of 10 km:
- the Italianate town of Menton,
- the coastal resorts of Beaulieu,
- the perched villages of Èze, La Turbie, Peille, Peillon and Sainte-Agnès,
- without forgetting the buzzing capital of the Maritime Alps: Nice.
Culture in the Principality of Monaco
Major events in Monaco
The principality is the setting for various sporting events. Two of them are particularly popular and famous.
Monaco Grand Prix
At the end of May, racing cars burn around the principality for the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix.
The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the oldest and one of the three most prestigious races in the world. It follows an urban circuit designed in 1929 by Antony Noghès, son of the Automobile Club de Monaco president, under the auspices of Prince Louis II of Monaco.
The record of victories on this circuit in Formula 1 is held by Ayrton Senna, who won six times, including five consecutively, in ten participations.
Monte-Carlo Automobile Rally
Since its creation in 1911, the Automobile Club de Monaco has organised a car rally-type event: the Monte-Carlo Automobile Rally.
The starting and finishing point is the Principality of Monaco. However, most of the route takes place further north, in the French départements of Alpes-Maritimes, Ardèche, Drôme, Hautes-Alpes, Isère and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, depending on the year. This event always takes place in winter, in January.
The Principality of Monaco in movies
Monaco is the stage for several American and French blockbuster movies:
- To Catch a Thief (1954) by Alfred Hitchcock film featuring Cary Grant and the future Princess Grace of Monaco.
- Herbie goes to Monte-Carlo (1977), featuring Dean Jones
- James Bond movie Never Say Never Again (1983)
- James Bond movie GoldenEye (1995)
- Arlette (1997) featuring Josiane Balasko and Christophe Lambert
- Coco (2009) with Gad Elmaleh
- Iron Man 2 (2010)
- Les Tuche (2011) featuring Jean-Paul Rouve and Isabelle Nanty (although it was not filmed in Monaco)
- My Way / Cloclo (2012) featuring Jérémie Renier
(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin, (adj) for adjective and (v) for verbs
- Alps = Alpes (f,p)
- casino = casino (m)
- castle = château (m)
- French Riviera = Côte d’Azur (f)
- harbour = port (m)
- marina = port de plaisance (m)
- Maritime Alps = Alpes Maritimes (f,p)
- Mediterranean Sea = Mer Méditerranée (f)
- micro-state = micro-état (m)
- old town = vieille-ville (f)
- palace = palais (m)
- Prince = Prince (m)
- Principality = Principauté (f)
- port = port (m)
- rock = rocher (m)
The politics of the Principality of Monaco
The independent Principality has been a constitutional monarchy since 1911, with a prince at the head of state.
Executive power consists of a Minister of State, who presides over a six-member Government Council (himself and five Government Councillors, the equivalent of ministers), responsible only to the Prince.
According to the 1962 Constitution, the Prince shares legislative power with the National Council, which is a unicameral parliament.
The Grimaldi dynasty has ruled Monaco since the 13th century. Since 2005, Prince Albert II (born 1958) has been the current head of state.
He succeeded his father, Rainier III (1923-2005), who married American actress Grace Kelly in 1956.
The official language is French. Although not a member of the European Union, the Principality of Monaco uses the euro as currency.
Facts and Figures
Find out more about Monaco in our article: Facts and Figures about Monaco.
Pin in on Pinterest
Did you enjoy the reading? If so, please pin this image on Pinterest, or share this article on Facebook and Twitter! 😊
How to get to the Principality of Monaco
Arriving by car
Monaco is accessible from Nice via the scenic coastal Corniche roads:
- the Corniche Inférieure road follows the coast via Beaulieu,
- the Moyenne Corniche passes through Èze,
- and the Grande Corniche crosses La Turbie.
The Principality is bordered by the French A8 motorway linking Provence to Italy. Paris is 950 km away via the A6, A7 and A8 motorways.
Thanks to the A8 motorway, you can reach the centre of Monaco in less than 30 minutes from Nice and its airport.
- Exit 56 “Monaco” in the direction of France -> Italy
- Exit 58 “Roquebrune Cap Martin” in the direction of Italy -> France
However, please note that access to Monaco-Ville (Le Rocher) is limited to users whose vehicle is registered in Monaco and the French département of Alpes Maritimes .
How to park in Monaco
Other vehicles should park in the Parking des Pêcheurs, which has pedestrian access to the Rock in a few minutes.
It is advisable to leave your vehicle in one of the many public car parks. The Principality has no less than 40 car parks with 15,500 spaces.
All the car parks are underground, guarded and secure. They are therefore the best solution for parking your vehicle. All public “Monaco Parking” offers free parking for 1 hour. For more information, visit the official website of the Monaco Carparks.
Nice-Côte d’Azur International Airport links the Principality of Monaco to more than 86 destinations worldwide.
Through Nice Airport (25 minutes away by motorway), Monaco is linked daily to the main European capitals and, beyond, to all continents.
The airline Air France offers 73 flights a day to Nice Airport, directly from 15 cities in France and seven cities worldwide.
Moreover, the airport is 7 km away by helicopter to the Monaco heliport situated in the Fontvieille district.
Monaco Train Station
Monaco is located on the Marseille-Ventimiglia railway line. The underground SNCF station at Monaco-Monte-Carlo, offers daily TGV services to Paris, and up to ten other cities, via the nearby Nice-Ville station.
TER trains link Monaco to Menton and Ventimiglia to the north-east, Nice, Antibes, Cannes, Grasse and Saint-Raphaël to the south-west.
In addition, there are several daily connections to Turin, Milan and Rome via Ventimiglia.
Six entrances allow users to access the underground railway station via a series of escalators or lifts:
Sainte Dévote Bridge, Parvis de la Gare (behind Sainte Dévote Church), Port Hercule, Jardin Exotique, Allée Lazare Sauvaigo/Rue Grimaldi/Rue Suffren-Reymond, Avenue Prince Pierre.
I've been to Monaco a couple of times (both by automobile and Mobylette!). I've stepped inside the casino, and peeked through a fence during the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix. I've also explored Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. And, by the way, I spent my junior college year at the university in Nice. This was a great post. Nothing was overlooked! I hope to visit the French Riviera again someday..
Thank you David, there’s so much to see in this beautiful region of the Riviera!